ORLANDO — After so many tumultuous Florida elections, maybe it's time for a snoozer.
Bill McCollum vs. Alex Sink for governor might just provide the anxious and economically ravaged Sunshine State with a giant, calming dose of Ambien.
McCollum, the Republican attorney general, and Sink, the Democratic chief financial officer, turned up for their first political forum Friday evening and sounded pretty much identical.
"We need to take this moment as a state to retool, to rethink where we are," McCollum said, stressing that he thought Florida's economy is starting to turn around.
"It's time to get our state a fresh start to build a new foundation for our state, a foundation that just doesn't rely on visitors and our next housing bubble," Sink said, stressing that she thought Florida's economy is starting to turn around.
Taking questions before the nearly 500 people at a Florida Association of Realtors conference, both said they oppose taxing services (and real estate commissions). Both oppose the Hometown Democracy ballot initiative that would allow local voters to approve major developments. And both are worried about Florida's property insurance crisis and really hope Congress passes some kind of national catastrophe insurance.
Gov. Charlie Crist, appearing as governor rather than a Senate candidate, spoke to the group in the morning and offered his usual upbeat message about the condition of Florida.
"You can feel it getting better," Crist said, noting that home sales are rising.
That was a marked contrast to Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek of Miami, who described Florida as being in "a state of emergency." Meek also managed to draw the most yawns from the crowd, speaking so long that he ran out of time to take questions.
The clear star of the day was former state House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami, who is challenging Crist for the Republican Senate nomination and had the crowd roaring.
Rubio scoffed at one of Crist's main accomplishments — passing the Amendment 1 property tax initiative.
"No one remembers Amendment 1 anymore, because it didn't do anything," said Rubio. "It accomplished what I didn't think possible. It actually hurt local governments and didn't help taxpayers."
Rubio had supported a proposal that would have cut property taxes and replaced the revenue with higher sales taxes. Crist opposed that as a tax increase.
Adam Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.